By: Bert Deener, GA DNR Fisheries Biologist
(Deener’s reports can also be found in the Waycross Journal Herald on Thursdays)
Bream in ponds and whiting in the ocean have been the best bites this week. The rivers are really blown out now – many gages are at record highs for the date. Forget the rivers again this week, they’re too high to fish safely. The new moon is April 29. To monitor all the Georgia river levels, visit the USGS website.
Altamaha River – Forget it again this week! Everything is flooded. The annual Wayne County Catfish Tournament will be held May 3 and 4 out of Jaycees Landing in Jesup. First place will pay $10,000 (that is not a misprint!). For more information, visit the website www.waynecountycatfishtournament.com. A new panfish tournament sponsored by Iron Pigs Motorcycle Club will be held on June 14. First place is a guaranteed $500. The tournament will be based out of Jaycees Landing in Jesup. The winner will be determined based on the weight of their biggest 10 panfish (bluegill, warmouth, redbreasts and shellcrackers are the species to be weighed). The entry fee is a modest $20 per angler (children under 16 years of age can compete free of charge with a paying adult). For more information, contact the Wayne County Board of Tourism at 912-427-3233. The river level was 16.8 feet (almost 4 feet above flood stage!) and cresting (61 degrees) at the Baxley gage, and 12.8 feet and rising (62 degrees) at the Doctortown gage on April 22.
Satilla River – Michael Winge of Winge’s Bait and Tackle in Waycross said that the high water has kept anglers off the river (which is a good thing for safety, for right now). It will be fantastic fishing once the river comes back down. It may be worth thinking about by the end of NEXT week. For more detailed information about fishing the Satilla River, check out my article in the April issue of Georgia Outdoor News. The Satilla Riverkeeper recently announced that they are going to sponsor a fishing tournament on the Satilla River on Saturday, May 10. The river should be fishable by then, unless we continue to get significant rains. For more information visit www.satillariverkeeper.org. The river level at the Waycross gage was 17.6 feet and rising (61 degrees) and at the Atkinson gage was 15.7 feet and rising (63 degrees) on April 22.
Local Ponds – The bream bite has picked up in Waycross area ponds. Michael Winge reported that Memphis George has been killing the bream. He said that on Monday, he caught some of the biggest bream he has ever caught. Of course, it was in an undisclosed Ware County pond. The bass bite has slowed in area ponds with the monsoon like conditions this week. The catfish reports were good from area lakes. Worms and shrimp were the most productive baits. At Lake Ware, big bream and redbreasts have been caught in the spillway. On Tuesday, an angler reported catching 18 bream that filled a 5-gallon bucket. He caught them on pink worms. Some crappie were caught this week with minnows.
Laura Walker State Park Lake – I did not receive a specific report from the main lake this week, but anglers did catch quite a few fish from the spillway below the lake because of the high flows. Bream were caught with crickets and worms. Fish stack up in the plunge pool and will chow down during conditions such as these.
Okefenokee Swamp – The east side (Folkston entrance) anglers who braved the rains reported catching fliers and warmouth. Anglers fishing all of the tributaries flowing into the swamp on all sides have reported catching lots of catfish this week.
Saltwater (Georgia Coast) – The whiting bite would have been great if it weren’t for the small craft advisory conditions the majority of the week! Very few people were able to get out in boats during the winds. On Monday and Tuesday folks got out some and did well, catching between 30 and 60 fish per trip. Dead shrimp fished on double bottom rigs or single slide rigs with a 1/0 kahle hook worked best. A few black drum were caught, also. Bull redfish have been caught from the beach. A few tripletails were landed by those fishing the inshore markers in the Intracoastal Waterway. Some flounder were caught in Gould’s Inlet. Mike and Trish Wooten of St. Simons Bait & Tackle said that from the pier the story was whiting….again. Dead shrimp was the best bait. Most groups landed from 50 to 60 fish averaging 15 to 18 inches. A few sharks ate cut bait.
Best Bet – The wind and weather forecasts at the time of writing this are awesome for the weekend. I would suggest whiting fishing if the forecast materializes. The bite is great and it is time to go when the weather allows. A good fallback is bass and bream fishing in local ponds. Buzzbaits fished around shoreline cover should produce some nice bass. Later in the day, toss a wacky-rigged Assassin Fat Job worm. A 1/8-oz. wacky head is perfect for that worm. Let it fall on slack line and when it hits bottom, twitch it and let it fall again. The bass will typically smash it as it falls.